Untapped Potential: Half of Female Executives Feel Insufficiently Challenged Despite High Confidence in Skills, Accenture Research Finds
NEW YORK – Almost half of female business professionals around the world – and a similar number of their male counterparts – believe they are insufficiently challenged, despite being confident of their skills and capabilities, according to new research from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
The survey of 3,600 professionals from medium to large organizations in 18 countries across Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Africa found that 46 percent of women and 49 percent of men said they are not being challenged significantly in their current roles, yet more than three-quarters (76 percent) of all respondents are confident of their skills and capabilities. These skills include the ability to manage their workload and deadlines, to delegate tasks and to negotiate (reported by 70 percent, 68 percent and 65 percent of respondents, respectively).
The research, released today as part of Accenture’s celebration of International Women’s Day, also found that almost six in 10 women (59 percent) believe that their careers are successful or very successful. Additionally, nearly half (46 percent) of women who consider themselves very successful reported that they are in jobs that require them to stretch beyond their expected responsibilities.
Yet, these women are challenging themselves further: more than eight in 10 women (81 percent) who consider themselves “very successful” said they take on additional responsibilities and complexity to advance their careers, and three-quarters (75 percent) reported that they regularly stretch themselves beyond their comfort zone. They are also learning new skills that can help them move to the next level, are willing to consider a new position or role, are willing to travel globally to conduct business or build relationships and regularly ask for new challenges (reported by 78 percent, 76 percent, 68 percent and 65 percent, respectively).
“This untapped potential offers great promise for organizations, which should engage their employees and build confident individuals with deep skills and capabilities,” said Armelle Carminati, managing director of Human Capital & Diversity at Accenture. “Through an agile and innovative approach to training and development, organizations can help ensure their success, particularly in this constrained economic environment.”
Technology may be one enabler of success: respondents who described themselves as “very successful” are significantly more likely than their counterparts to rely on technology. More than three-quarters (79 percent) of respondents who identified themselves as “very successful” said they rely on technology, compared with just 56 percent of respondents who did not identify themselves as “very successful.” Overall, men are more likely than women to identify themselves as “innovators” or “early adopters” of technology (70 percent versus 58 percent, respectively).
For women, one highly touted but largely untapped resource is mentoring programs. When asked to whom they turn for career advice, just 14 percent of women cited a formal mentor at work, compared with more than 50 percent of women who cited either family, friends and current or former colleagues (cited by 57 percent, 51 percent and 50 percent, respectively). Yet women acknowledge the value of a mentor: they report that their mentors help them think differently about certain situations, help with their current roles and help them see more opportunities and possibilities (reported by 43 percent, 41 percent and 37 percent, respectively). They also acknowledged other benefits of mentors, including help with identifying their skills and capabilities, increasing their confidence and encouraging them to stretch themselves (reported by 34 percent, 34 percent and 32 percent, respectively).
“Organizations that want to develop and advance all their people will regularly examine the objectives and outcomes of their programs, including their mentoring efforts,” said Adrian Lajtha, Accenture’s chief leadership officer. “Forward-thinking organizations know that promoting careers—particularly for women—is not just about opening doors but about offering employees challenges and enhancing their abilities so they can perform at their highest level.”
Other key findings
Among the survey’s other key findings:
* The challenging economy has led some respondents—particularly those in emerging markets – to expand their skills and stretch their roles in order to remain competitive. For example, the majority of respondents in Brazil, China and India (86 percent, 79 percent and 70, respectively) said they have done so, compared with just 22 percent of respondents in the Netherlands and 35 percent in both Austria and Norway. One anomaly among more-developed economies is Italy, where 74 percent of the respondents said they have expanded their skills and roles to remain competitive.
* In several countries – the United States, Spain, Russia, the United Kingdom and Austria – women were more likely than men to report that they regularly ask their superiors for new challenges. The disparity was greatest in the United States (70 percent of women versus 48 percent of men) and Russia (57 percent of women versus 44 percent of men).
* Men overall were more likely than women to say they have asked for pay raises (56 percent versus 48 percent) and promotions (42 percent versus 37 percent).
* Generational status does not appear to determine optimism about future job prospects. In the current economic climate, 50 percent of Baby Boomer respondents (those born before 1964) feel secure about their future career prospects, compared with 45 percent of Generation X respondents (those born between 1965 and 1978) and 48 percent of Generation Y respondents (those born after 1979).
In November and December 2008, Accenture conducted an online survey of 3,600 business executives from medium to large organizations across 18 countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. Two hundred respondents from each country participated. Respondents were split evenly by gender and were balanced by age and level in their organizations. The margin of error for the total sample was approximately +/-2 percent. A full report on the research, Untapped Potential: Stretching toward the Future, is available at www.accenture.com.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With more than 186,000 people serving clients in over 120 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$23.39 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2008. Its home page is www.accenture.com.
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